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How to Style Your Home When You’re Not Made of Money

Meg's best tips, plus a peek inside her new house

apw x modcloth

ModCloth Home Decor (23 of 72)

How Do You Adieu? Doormat (on sale for $27.99), A Vibe Called Zest Heel (on sale for $14.99)

Two months ago, we moved into the first house we’ve ever owned. As of today, it looks like the dream home I’ve always hoped for.

Just kidding. Obviously that is not true at all. But any of you who own houses, or have moved with small children, knew that already. I, however, am easily suckered by the Internet (still! After all this time!), and was sure I would have accomplished fifty different DIY projects by now, have impeccably decorated rooms, and possibly have retiled a bathroom during naptime.

The first problem is that I care about decorating my house. A lot. Perhaps you are the kind of person who just wants your house to be functional? Who doesn’t have a specific design aesthetic? If so, I salute you, because the interior of your brain is probably much saner than mine. The second problem is that I am an obsessive reader of DIY porn. Turns out, the Internet largely fails to clue you in on how long it takes to get those houses to perfection (years), or how much a given makeover costs (lots).

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Point Taken Pillow ($39.99), Let Nurture Take Its Course Pillow ($39.99), Surely I’ll Manage Mug ($16.99), Like It or Note Notebook in Flora ($14.99)

So when ModCloth asked us to try out items from their home collection, I jumped at it, because frankly, I needed an excuse to prove to myself that I could pick up some ground-up cracker mess and start to make a home that looks stylish… at least in occasional corners. The great thing about ModCloth’s home collection (aside from the fact that it’s packed with plenty of cute things) is that it’s super affordable. In fact, they have a whole section of décor items for under $30, which is about what I have to spend, post home/rug purchasing. (Can we all just cry together for a minute over the cost of floor coverings? #RugsCostTooDamnMuch.)

See, I have a decorating sickness called “I have expensive taste, damn it.” So when I realize we need chairs, for example, I’ll research endlessly and find the perfect chair. But did you know that single chairs can cost $750? I did not. So then I try to find a knockoff, and cry, and then give up because OMG THIS PROJECT OMG EXPENSIVE TEARS when honestly, what I really need to cheer me up is probably these $19.99 color-dipped coasters. (Which, no joke, every time I see them around the house, make me grin.)

ModCloth Home Decor (46 of 72)

Ol’ Buddy, Ol’ Palette Coaster Set ($19.99)

So ModCloth was kind enough to send over a handful of super cute home products, all under $40. And together with Maddie and Ashley Rose Conway (stylist and cocktail-maker extraordinaire), we spent two afternoons getting small areas of my house in order. Here is what I learned:

ModCloth Home Decor (2 of 2)

Advanced Style: Older & Wiser ($34.99)

Start Small: You cannot make your whole house look Pinterest-level cute. At least not today. And probably not even this year. You can, however, make a side table look great, and then go from there. So pick one to three tiny areas of your house that you interact with often, and get to work on them. We picked: my dresser, my vanity, a side table, and a shelf of the bookcase.

ModCloth Home Decor (16 of 72)

Dresser to the Nines Jewelry Holder ($17.99), Equator to Your Needs Jewelry Holder ($17.99)

Take Time to Play: When you see a perfect interior shot on Pinterest, it’s easy to assume that person has perfect taste and an impeccable house. The truth probably is that everything behind the camera is currently a godforsaken mess, and that they just spent the last two hours trying to figure out how to make some small part of the room really work.

When we were styling the side table in the living room, I took basically every lamp in the house and stuck them on that table one by one. I changed shades; I tried everything. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a lamp my grandmother made from driftwood from the dining room and stuck it there. Boom. Perfection. (I still am not sure what lamp will work on the other side table, since I do not have two one-of-a-kind family heirloom driftwood lamps, but one of these days I’ll figure it out.)

ModCloth Home Decor (1 of 3)

Point Taken Pillow ($39.99), Let Nurture Take Its Course Pillow ($39.99)

Have Friends with Good Taste Come Help You: Not everyone is friends with a stylist (Ashley), but everyone has a friend with good taste, and/or a good eye. Having someone in the room giving you opinions helps you figure out what works (and if you crack open a bottle of rosé, the whole thing is that much more fun). Plus, if your friends are anything like mine, they love being asked their opinions.

ModCloth Home Decor (64 of 72)

Luminous Luxe Soap Dispenser ($19.99), Equator to Your Needs Jewelry Holder ($17.99), I Got Thistle Planner ($21.99), Like It or Note Notebook in Flora ($14.99)

Feel Free to Buy Things and Return Them: I’ve learned that decorating is almost never a one-and-done deal. You think you got the perfect throw at ModCloth, but decide you want to change it out, but it’s fine because ModCloth has a super generous return policy, so you send it back and get a new one, and then accidentally buy a new pair of jeans as well (this is obviously not a true story, oops).

ModCloth Home Decor (33 of 72)

Advanced Style: Older & Wiser ($34.99)

Borrow Things to Be Inspired: My favorite thing about working with a stylist is they walk into your room with a magic bag full of props. And while you can actually hire an up-and-coming stylist to help you out if you live in a big city (often very affordably), you can also just have a friend with good taste bring over a bunch of stuff she likes, or order a box full of stuff from ModCloth to play around with and return what doesn’t work. When Ashley showed up at my house, she brought a ton of houseplants I loved. She took them home again, but I’m buying some for myself (and I picked up some fake house plants to put places the baby will manhandle them).

ModCloth Home Decor (4 of 72)

Dresser to the Nines Jewelry Holder ($17.99), Equator to Your Needs Jewelry Holder ($17.99), Leaf the Fest to Me Jewelry Dish ($19.99)

Remember That Little Things Make a Big Difference: The number one thing I learned from this shoot is that, while you think it’s the brand-new couch that’s going to change the whole room, changing out a pillow or getting a new throw can actually change the mood faster than that huge investment piece can. Which is good, because you can afford it faster, too.

ModCloth Home Decor (1 of 1)-4

Marquee My Words! Lamp ($29.99)

Take Pictures: If I didn’t write for the Internet, it would never occur to me to take pictures of my home as I’m fixing it up it. But the process of taking pictures often tells me more about what’s working than my own eye does. You can 110 percent do this with an iPhone. But set up your nook, and then take a picture. Does it feel balanced? Are there big empty holes? Are the colors working together? Adjust and take another picture. At some point everything will click, and you’ll drink rosé.

ModCloth Home Decor (3 of 6)

Luminous Luxe Soap Dispenser ($19.99), Equator to Your Needs Jewelry Holder ($17.99), Like It or Note Notebook in Flora ($14.99), I Got Thistle Planner ($21.99)

Mix Old and New: People often give the advice to mix vintage and modern, and while I am giving you basically that advice, I’ve found that “vintage” and “modern” can mean “expensive” and “really fucking expensive.” So my mix looks more like Craigslist finds (some of them free!), Ikea hacks, family furniture reimagined, flea market finds, and yes, the occasional properly new furniture splurge. But what I learned this week is that new does not have to mean big and expensive, and ModCloth is a great place to start when you’re looking for small and cute. Because it turns out a $30 marquee lamp from ModCloth can be the perfect new item to make your Craigslist dresser feel fancy.

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Read the Best: Even though the Internet can make me all crazy, it also gives me some of the best ideas. And yes, if an idea is good, I will flat-out steal it with no regrets. Some of my favorites are my friend Jordan’s interiors section (we directly copied her Ikea built-in hack and it’s gorgeous); Little Green Notebook (Jenny is the absolute best at making something out of nothing—aka Craigslist, eBay, and IKEA); Emily Henderson (her blog is great, though sometimes full of expensive pretty things, but both her site and her book are the best at actually explaining how things work and why); Design Mom: How to Live with Kids (for… living with kids); and Niki KehoeAmber Interiors, and Sarah Sherman Samuel (I can’t afford a single thing they do, but I can eBay a similar outcome).

ModCloth Home Decor (12 of 72)

Point Taken Pillow ($39.99), Surely I’ll Manage Mug ($16.99), Let Nurture Take Its Course Pillow ($39.99), Ol’ Buddy, Ol’ Palette Coaster Set ($19.99)

Realize the Project of Your Home Will Go on Forever (and That’s Fun): You guys. So after two full days of styling, I ended up with four nicely styled areas in my home. Four teeny tiny areas. But that’s okay, because we hope to live in this house for the rest of our lives, and what’s life without projects? My next project will probably be the other side table, which already has some killer ModCloth coasters on it. Then one day I will, in fact, retile a bathroom (a girl can dream), and refinish my deck. But in the meantime, ModCloth just got a cute new alarm clock, and mine just broke. One step at a time.

See All Of Meg’s Home Picks Below:

[show_shopthepost_widget id=”1801783″] MC_logo

This post was sponsored by ModCloth. ModCloth’s new home décor section is full of modern, stylish pieces at prices you can actually afford (no $750 chairs here). So whether you’re looking to spruce up your own home, or are in search of the perfect housewarming gift for your bestie, ModCloth has you covered. Click here to browse bedding, statement décor, kitchen and dining, office décor, and more.

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